Monday, June 6, 2011

Intellectual Rot from Our "Elites"

There has been a lot of comment in the blogosphere lately about the decline of the intellectual and moral vitality of America’s “elites.”  From the continuing mass hysteria about a One World Government fiat to end global warming to the blind faith in endless government programs to ameliorate the misery of the human condition, our elites have run out of both ideas and energy.

And despair about the decadence of our elites is not limited to one wing of our political spectrum.  On the Left, commentators like Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein cluck about the disappearance of adult leadership among conservatives, while on the Right analysts like Walter Russell Meade and Craig Comstock write about the collapse of the New York-based liberal elites.

Ironically, it is the liberal Left political/cultural elites that are behaving like the conservatives they disdain.  The New York-Hollywood axis is frantically trying to stave off the inevitable new world order that, by rejecting the Church of the State, supports and encourages the individual choice and initiative that are the basis of America's founding principles.  It is instructive to watch President Obama, as the lead spokesman for this latter-day “l’etat c’est nous” faction, govern as if the verities of the Old Liberal Order haven’t thoroughly and soundly gone bankrupt.

And yet facts have a certain inexorability—not to mention disinterestedness—about themselves, and do not yield to whim or fantasy.  Although King Canute taught us this immutable truth eleven hundred years ago when his command to the tides to “halt and not wet his feet and robes” went unheeded, we still seem to need to learn this lesson over and over again.

The Recovering Bureaucrat suggests that we can find evidence of this sad truth on the editorial pages of any one of our major MSM newspaper.  Connected as he is to Sacramento, the RB consults the venerable Sacramento Bee, a veritable exemplar of conventional elite liberalism.  On the Saturday, June 4, 2011, editorial page he found this amazingly dumb article by California’s senior Senator Dianne Feinstein entitled “State needs protection from health care rate hikes.”

“Right now,” she breathlessly writes, “health insurance companies have a green light to raise health insurance premiums as much and as often as they want, and state regulators are powerless to stop them.”

And so the intellectual vapidity starts at the beginning.  (At least we are forewarned.)  This opening sentence contains in thirty words all of the mendacity and condescension we can count on from the clergy of the Church of the State.

First, it proceeds from the assumption that the provision and financing of health care is the proper realm of the state.  Why?  Obamacare passed by the skin of its teeth precisely because a majority of Americans have not been converted to this article of faith.  There remain significant questions about the constitutionality of such a government mandate (although you will not find Sen. Feinstein uttering a word about this controversy).

Second, it presumes that the state should control the price of a privately-sold commodity, in this case health insurance policies, and can adequately and appropriately do so.  This canard has been refuted by common practice so many times in our own life spans that it still takes the breath away that a sentient being with a modern college education would still promote it.

Third, it presumes that health insurance premiums can only go in one direction—up—without exhibiting the least curiosity about why this might be so, and how governmental interference with it might be a contributing factor.

Fourth, you wouldn’t detect in her assertions the fact that the health insurance market is a competitive one, which is a normal brake on upward price creep. Competitive dynamics do not work very well here, however, precisely because of the distortions injected by many government regulations. 

Feinstein argues that, because “California officials have rejected excessive rates for auto, property and casualty insurance,” consumers have saved “billions of dollars in excessive premiums since 1988.”  (The RB is not sure what is so sacred about that year.)  This assertion blindly pretends that there have been no impacts upon the economy of repressing the rate requests; it also shows the arrogance of the presumption that the government has the wisdom to know what is “excessive” over what is “acceptable.”

Because the Church of the State has it as an article of faith that the government knows better the citizenry, it is perfectly sensible to the good Senator to want to compound the folly of the liberal project for the government to take total control of health care.  “I have introduced the Health Insurance Rate Review Act of 2011 [that] grants the secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to block or modify health insurance premium increases that are unjustified.”

Ah, a verse right out of the statist bible.  Unelected bureaucrats—disinterested “experts,” to its way of thinking—are somehow invested with transhuman wisdom to know what prices are “unjustified.”  This is the collectivist virus championed by our Progressive forefathers a century ago, and relentlessly introduced into our political economy ever since.  So of course nowhere does she exhibit the slightest doubt that this latest of an endless and expanding stream of intrusions into the private affairs of citizens might generate a cost to us individually and collectively that is equally unjustified.

This is the challenge for our time.  Are we willing to reclaim what our Founding Fathers asserted as a self-evident truth that we each “are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights,” among which are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”?  Are we willing to face our own subtle preferences for security over liberty that feeds the statist appetite for more and more government control?  

If we don’t reverse this pernicious do-goodery on the part of the blue noses, busybodies, and autocrats of our tired and intellectually impoverished elites, we might as well be prepared to see Sen. Feinstein introduce the “Pursuit of Happiness Regulatory Act of 2012.”

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